Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

P-Noy’s 5th SONA cannot be the business-as-usual bashing of political enemies, for our country in these four and a half years of his watch is in very deep crisis. The Filipino people are looking for solutions to our myriad, gargantuan problems and mulling alternatives for governance. UP experts issue their own “alternative SONA” which is not flattering to P-Noy at all.

Presidential ally Sergio Osmena III, who’s trying to project independence when expedient but who’s in reality a dyed-in-the-wool LP, was quoted in today’s Daily Tribune as stating he expects President Aquino’s 5th SONA tomorrow at the House of Representatives to be “no different” from his four previous Sonas in that, Osmena said, "it will be full of rhetorics and lack substance.” The Tribune story noted that Aquino in his previous SONAs used his 47-minute speech to bash alleged inefficient government officials and agencies.

It should be noted too, that in his past four SONAs, P-Noy’s favorite target for bashing was his predecessor, ex-President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as he probably thought this tactic would make him look gwapo.  For tomorrow’s SONA, however, P-Noy can no longer resort to such tired tactics, for this time his administration is in deep crisis and no amount of blaming others for the desperate mess our country is in at the moment can take the heat away from the President.

In fact such tactic would only aggravate his problem and turn more people against him. At this very minute he faces three impeachment cases in the House. 

But there may be indication that the President is aware of the dire status of his 5th SONA. Insider whispers from the Palace corridors report that P-Noy called an emergency Cabinet meeting at 10:30 last Saturday night, that lasted until 3 am. today, all about what to say tomorrow. 


Tomorrow’s SONA cannot be business as usual. For the fact is that people are angry and upset at the way the Aquino administration and its cohorts have run the country aground and destroyed many existing institutions. They are desperate for real, meaningful change, a national transformation---in fact a growing number are now advocating even radical change that they would articulate in their “alternative SONA.”

The “alternative SONA” had been traditionally marshaled by various groups at every opening of Congress in past administrations, usually behind barricades and in front of deep phalanxes of police and soldiers. But expect it to be louder and harsher than ever in this current one as the country faces tremendous problems.

But don’t take it from me---listen to what the experts have to say in one such “alternative SONA.”


Last Friday, just a day after the Aquino Cabinet attended the Senate hearing in full force to help beleaguered DBM Secretary Florencio Abad defend the P-Noy administration on DAP (and all of them looking so obsequious in the process), the UP-based Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg) held a political briefing and forum at the National College of Public Administration and Governance in UP Diliman. The forum sought to examine various aspects of the Aquino Administration during CenPeg's “State of the Presidency (SOP)---its 6th in time for the yearly SONA---and the forum’s title said it all: “A Damaged Presidency, a Besieged Administration.”

The CenPeg Forum took a look at the following: “The limits and Illusion of Reform” by Dr. Temario C. Rivera;  “Elite Aquinomics on the PDP,  PPP and DAP,” by Ibon Executive Director and CenPeg Fellow Jose Enrique Africa; “A Foreign Policy Not Our Own, 4 Years into the BS Aquino Administration” by Prof. Roland G. Simbulan, CenPeg Senior Fellow;  the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro: Pressing for (or Against ) Time, by Dean Julkipli Wadi, of the Institute of Islamic Studies, UP Asian Center; and “The Presidency, Reform or Anti-Reform: An Institutional Perspective, by Prof. Bobby Tuazon, Director for Policy Studies, CenPeg.

Predictably, the speakers as well as reactors didn’t seem to find anything favorable to say about the above aspects affecting the P-Noy administration. In fact, toward the end of the forum, one professor confessed publicly, to the amusement of the professors, students and media, that he voted for P-Noy in 2010 and is now awfully sorry and ashamed about it, peks man.


The UP professors who conducted the forum had, to a man, a grim view of the Aquino administration’s performance in its past four and a half years. But to be fair, they maintained that in the 28 years of post-Marcos rule (from 1986 to 2014), every president since Corazon Aquino started out with a fairly high rating; but toward the end of his or her administration their ratings plunged (steepest drop was President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at negative 50 in her last year), as every administration failed to cope with the many ills of the current presidential system---such as dynastic and transactional politics, corruption, economic instability, political unrest in the form of coup d’etats and mutinies, the power crisis, the challenge of globalization, etc.


Dr. Temario C. Rivera, CenPeg Board Chair and UP Political Science Professorial Lecturer, stressed, however, that President Noynoy’s case may be the most pathetic of all of Filipino Chief Executives as he started out with such high ratings---“a political capital that can be systematically used to jump-start and sustain much needed reform.”Much indecisiveness and ineptness by the President," however, said Rivera, have left a track record that falls short of earlier expectations.” He plainly put as the sub-title of his paper "Twilight of a Damaged Presidency: The Limits and Abuse of Presidential Power."

Dr. Rivera argued that our economic growth, touted to be the second best in Asia, “has not made any significant dent on poverty rates and unemployment (the worst record in the ASEAN 10 for unemployment trends during the last 8 years). With daang matuwid as its professed policy centerpiece, the P-Noy administration, said Rivera, ironically now exhibits the country’s worst corruption scandal involving some of the President’s closest allies.”

Moreover, says Rivera, its potentially lasting legacy of a definitive peace process in Mindanao also faces an uncertain endgame.”


Prof. Bobby Tuazon, on the other hand, deplored the failure of this administration to pass the Freedom of Information Law despite P-Noy’s campaign promise to do so. He also cited the corruption instruments of the PDAF and DAP that in turn have weakened the party system and turned Congress into a rubber stamp of the executive; moreover, said Tuazon, crucial agreements still hanging in the balance, such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US and the MILF Agreement (MILF Chair Al Haj Murad was said to have been quite angry that the Bangsamoro Agreement inked in Malacanang with such fanfare some months ago was altered unilaterally and surreptitiously by as much as 70%) and a Judiciary under siege.  Tuazon also deplored a crony capitalism alive and kicking, the “bastardization” of the party list, and an electoral system and its administration that have been compromised.


Dean Julkipli Wadi of the Institute of Islamic Studies also does not sound optimistic about the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that was forwarded to Congress last April. Wadi opined that even though forging this agreement is P-Noy’s commitment, there’s too little time for Congress to start deliberations on it and presumably it would still be be challenged in the Supreme Court. 

At this point this blogger cannot help but point out that the missing 'pantulak' for the spoiled and corrupted legislators, if this were a drinking spree, would be the DAP, as in the good old days; but that is now under SC embargo.


For Prof. Rolando Simbulan, our commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary last July 23 of the First Philippine Republic’s first Foreign Secretary, Apolinario Mabini, the Sublime Paralytic, is actually the best time to reflect on the direction of our foreign policy. He stressed that the hero was “unyielding in his struggle against Spanish colonialism and US imperialism, and is “a symbol of genuine self-determination, independence and the defense of our national sovereignty.” Simbulan, noted for his fiercely nationalistic stance on foreign policy issues, asserted that Mabini “would put to shame his successors in the DFA.”

Simbulan batted for a truly INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY that “extends friendship to all and enmity toward none” and that gives primacy to our national interests, independent of the conflict between Big Powers. He warns that being a “junior partner/follower of one of the competing powers (China and the US) would  make our country a possible target of attack in a future conflict.

Unfortunately, the path chosen by P-Noy is precisely that of a “junior partner” to the US, and one indication is that Malacanang does not consider EDCA a treaty that has to be approved by the Senate, as per mandate of the Constitution.  It’s easy to see another challenge to Malacanang in the Supreme Court.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DAP crisis has provoked so much outrage that pundits are speculating about beginning of the end for President Aquino and emergence of National Transformation Council in interim. Winter of people’s discontent is fueled by P-Noy admin's secrecy over DAP, viewed as LP’s means to control bureaucracy and politicos. DAP fall-out includes militants’ agitation over payment of Luisita lands ---which was settled at 1989 valuation while CJ Corona was at SC's helm, which new Justice Sereno fought. Pundits opine this was why Corona had to be ousted.

The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is the worst crisis to hit the crisis-laden administration of President Aquino. The DAP has provoked so much outrage that some political pundits are already speculating whether this could spell the beginning of the end for him. On the other hand, already talks abound regarding a National Transformation Council that could become the interim political arrangement in the event of P-Noy's impeachment or resignation.

There are a number of reasons for this winter of our political discontent as a nation. First, the gravity of the DAP issue, which has been handled with such furtive secrecy by this administration, tending to project a strong sense of guilt about it. As a media commentator put it, if DAP is supposed to stimulate and energize the economy, why so secret about it?

Why did it take DBM Secretary Florencio Abad so long to disclose the list of recipients? Or as Sen. Francis Escudero, himself a DAP recipient (P99 million in 2012, next only to his predecessor as Senate Finance Committee Chair then, Franklin Drilon who bagged P100  million in DAP that time), was quoted as complaining about how incomplete the data submitted to his committee are.


Secondly, outrage over DAP is far worse than the senators’ PDAF, much of which was invested in Janet Napoles’ scam ring as well as in so-called “non-Napoles” syndicates.  Why is DAP worse? It’s because the PDAF is old hat in the scam world, dating from the Arroyo years, whereas DAP is a new invention approved by P-Noy on October 12,  2011, just a little over a year after he assumed the presidency---upon recommendation of the Development Budget Coordinating Committee and the Aquino Cabinet clusters.

DAP appears to have been surreptitiously concocted from executive savings by  Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Abad and Drilon, so much so that former Presidential Legal Adviser Ed de Mesa complained that he never saw the shadow of DAP at all until it hit the headlines.  


But the main aggrieved sentiment over DAP stems from the fact that it was the brainchild of the Aquino administration which has gone into all pretenses of epitomizing the “daang matuwid” (or straight path)---in contrast to the corruption of the Arroyo era. Many of the electorate bought the Aquino promise of scrupulosity with public funds hook, line and sinker.

Now, in the light of all the talk about massive bribery with DAP funds in the billions for legislators to impeach and convict sitting Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012; the subsequent 900 SAROs for solons; P10 billion DAP for DILG Secretary Mar Roxas’ alleged advance campaigning---and many other examples of wanton distribution of these public funds to administration allies with little need for due diligence and even much less for accounting ---many yellows now feel utterly betrayed by the lack of rectitude of intention.


Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno distinguishes between PDAF and DAP, both of which were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, in this manner: Unlike PDAF which is in the appropriations act as congressional pork barrel, DAP projects are not covered by the national budget and therefore can be misused and abused by the powers that be---as out and out political patronage.  

The trouble is that both P-Noy and his Budget Chief cannot feign ignorance about these monster funds they caused to be invented and dissipated: as senator P-Noy had filed a bill prohibiting the “impoundment” of executive savings---the exact opposite of what DAP has done.

On the other hand, Abad is a lawyer and former two-term House member and chief of the powerful appropriations committee. Like P-Noy, he knows that--- as Fr. Ranhillo C. Aquino, Dean of the San Beda Graduate  School of Law, asserts--- invoking a provision of the Administrative Code of the early Cory era, even if it antedates the 1987 Constitution, “must always be read in consonance with the Constitution, and never against it.”

It was Abad’s National Budget Circular 541 issued on June 20, 2012 that allowed DBM to withdraw “unobligated allotments of agencies with low levels of obligation…for continuing and current allotments.” That got DAP started, and thanks to the lack of a sense of obligation of COA under Grace Pulido Tan, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima's hand-picked chair, it could cause government to fall. Tan is said to be the top-notcher in the JBC list for the SC. 


The first thing that strikes anyone trying to understand the controversy over DAP is that he simply cannot understand it. So much of DAP is secret and doubtless intentionally hazy and conflicting. To begin with, what DBM claims as DAP funds amounting to P144 billion--- disbursed since late 2011---may in reality have shot as high as P372 billion when all details are in.

The problem is, will the people ever see the whole picture, given the continued Palace dodging of disclosure and that the investigators of DAP in Congress are also its beneficiaries? Nineteen senator-judges who voted to convict CJ Corona in May 2012 received DAP funds of P50 million up to P100 million, but new revelations show there could have been a second tranche for them--- until late  2013 when Sen. Jinggoy Estrada took the floor to denounce the bribery through DAP. Suddenly the faucet closed.

Would the citizens ever know just how much DAP has been doled out to choice agencies, considering how wide and mind-boggling its coverage has been, and the strip-tease fashion with which data and information are released?


Star columnist Boo Chanco queries why public offices and agencies rewarded with DAP didn’t get their priority needs into the yearly national budget, which would then have been perfectly legal and valid. The answer is simple: very early on, P-Noy’s economic and finance advisers obviously saw the need for him to CONTROL the bureaucracy as well as the politicians, and what better way than to get them to ASK him for DAP allotments and for him to DOLE them out.

But as is obvious, DAP as tool for power control is also the best argument for corruption, with its selective choice of recipients and virtually no accounting. 

Interestingly, in GMA’s time the most popular DAP outlets were fertilizer projects where the stuff disappears quickly into the earth, cannot be investigated. Under P-Noy many billions have gone into dairy feeding programs and yet there are no cows around, and our rural children remain emaciated and sickly.  

Against this background of wanton release of DAP funds and little or no accountability, grim poverty statistics stare us in the face. 


Former Chief Justice Renato Corona

One of the biggest quarrels that erupted over DAP was the recent disclosure (in DBM's list of projects) that some P7.9 billion of DAP was to be paid to the Cojuangco-Aquino families to which P-Noy belongs, as compensation for lands of Hacienda Luisita redistributed to their farmers.

The Hacienda has had a controversial history,  as a stock distribution option (SDO) was specially crafted for it in President Cory’s time, unlike other farms that were immediately disposed to tenants. On April 24, 2012, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Renato Corona, then already embattled in his impeachment trial in the Senate, unanimously issued a final and executory order to have Luisita's lands re-distributed to its tenants, setting aside Cory’s SDO.   


During the SC deliberations, the problem was not  about redistributing the lands, but over the price the family should charge the tenants in installments.  A group of justices led by Corona wanted Luisita’s land valuation pegged at  P40,000/ha.---the very same price of the stock options offered to the tenants by the Cojuangco-Aquino family on Nov. 21, 1989. Whereas then newly-appointed justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno insisted at present-day valuation of P100,000/ha. which would be more costly for the farmers.

With Corona at SC’s helm the 1989 valuation held, but once he was ousted things changed.  In fact, during his Senate trial the popular view was that P-Noy went all out, including bribing senators with DAP, to ensure Corona’s conviction because of the Luisita issue.


The problem is that now militant farmers groups are angry over what they claim is the over-price by the Cojuangco-Aquinos of P100,000/ha. of Luisita--- more than double the value prescribed by SC under Corona of P40,000/ha. “Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura” asserts that the Cojuangcos were overpaid with DAP by as much as P167 million.

The militants insist that DAP funds worth P7.9 billion were released to Land Bank in order to primarily pay for Hacienda Luisita lands. Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes maintained, however, that those funds were the total of the 2010 and 2011 budget for landowners’ compensation approved by Congress and paid to more than 4,000 landowners, including Hacienda Luisita.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

President Noynoy should not act like a thug toward the SC, but practice more statesmanship. Reversal by anyone of the 13 magistrates who voted unanimously vs. DAP would be suicidal for them, considering people’s current anger. Fort Sto. Domingo encounter between Janet Napoles and bishops---mixture of pathos, anxious fear and fatherly advice to tell the entire truth.

Last Monday's press con by Catholic
and Protestant bishops at Club Filipino on their visit to Janet Napoles

After the President’s address to the nation last Monday evening on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and how its nearly P200 billion funds were allegedly used, a major TV-radio network perceived as pro-P-Noy took an impromptu survey of people’s sentiments toward P-Noy’s address in a low-income area in Manila. The commentators were aghast that an overwhelming majority of  interviewees was quite angry and hostile to P-Noy.   

This negative reaction appears to be shared by many people around the country, judging from various comments, and it is good to analyze just why this fierce negative outcry against P-Noy and DAP.


First of all, people are angry that P-Noy should be so combative toward the Supreme Court---the first President to react this way. He should realize that though we citizens do quarrel with SC decisions at times (and call magistrates names privately) we do not want this institution bullied and vilified. The President is expected to be the first to uphold respect for the Court and the Rule of Law, and to  exhibit more statesmanlike behavior. Despite its questionable record at times, the SC for many citizens remains the last bastion of freedom and defender of the Constitution. 

But not only was P-Noy publicly disrespectful toward the justices, he also let loose his allied thugs in the House, to seek to repeal the Judicial Development Fund that was installed by the Constitution to protect judicial independence (so the magistrates don’t have to run to Congress all the time). The House thugs also began rattling the impeachment saber at them.  

Then too, like the obedient doggie in the window, COA under the leadership of SC aspirant Grace Pulido Tan announced that it’s looking into the justices’ earnings and the Court’s budget.

But worst of all, a truly peeved P-Noy asserted that in the possible clash between two departments, a third one could be summoned to intervene. Pundits are now asking if that threat could mean military intervention. The phrase 'Palace coup' whereby the President could remain installed by grace of the armed forces has been buzzing among political pundits since Monday evening.  


P-Noy’s combative stance comes at a time when many things are not going right. He has been over-protective about his allies, misreading public sentiment against DAP’s architect, DBM Secretary Butch Abad---even as P-Noy’s agencies are totally preoccupied against the political opposition. This has  prompted Batanes Bishop Camilo Gregorio, Abad's prelate, to question the administration's selective justice at the bishops' Club Filipino press conference following their visit to Janet Napoles..

People blame P-Noy for the high prices of basic commodities, crowded trains, horrendous traffic and now even Glenda’s fury. But wait till experts scrutinize the DAP list and see how many billions upon billions went to inane expenditures and obvious cross-border transfer of funds that the SC shot down.  Pundits have opined that all these could trigger a revolution.  


P-Noy should abandon his announced intention to file a motion for reconsideration of the DAP decision--a thinly veiled effort perhaps to bamboozle some magistrates to do a turnabout. The way citizens have reacted to his combative stance, however, it’s easy to see that  NOT ONE of those 13 justices who voted DAP unconstitutional would dare do a somersault---if they value their reputation and career.   

Plain folks are angry and Palace stooges should abandon wearing yellow ribbons on their shirts, as P-Noy has asked them to--- especially in market-places or in bus and train stations, unless they’re ready for fist-fights.  Not advisable too, to use yellow stickers in their cars.

By the way, instead of yellow, court employees all over the country will wear black this Monday, in protest against the assault on the SC. A reprise of the Corona trial days.


The story of the bishops’ meeting with Janet Napoles in her Sta. Rosa, Laguna detention center began toward the third week of last month,  when she sent a signed letter to the “Mindanaon Bishops” through Archbishop Romulo T. de la Cruz of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, who had earlier visited her in her hospital room at the Ospital ng Makati.

Napoles said “I decided to tell the truth, though it hurts, regarding the controversies on the alleged abuse/misuse of PDAF, Malampaya, DOTC Funds and the like.” As a Mindanaoan, she said she is seeking the Archbishop’s “guidance and protection as I face these trials.” She had asked to see De la Cruz as he had known her family, the Lims, way back in Basilan where he had been bishop for 13 years. He also came to know Janet’s husband, Jimmy Napoles, when he was transferred to the diocese of Kidapawan, North Cotabato where he stayed for 26 years.

Janet also sent De la Cruz a copy of the affidavits she had submitted to DOJ and the Ombudsman. She begged for the bishops’ protection so that she could heed the clamor to tell the truth “because I knew it was time for the truth to come out.”For her this meant revealing  transactions “I had made with about more or less 120 influential and powerful politicians and other government officials in our country.”

She said she began to realize that “telling the truth has bitter consequences” as she is still detained in Fort Sto. Domingo due to fabrications by Ben-Hur Luy and his cohorts to pin me down,” and that she’s also “at the receiving end or scapegoat of the public’s outrage over the PDAF scam.”


Napoles confessed that her family is suffering from various threats from different forces, and “are in constant fear for our lives and safety.”  She added that “powerful forces are making sure that revealing the truth would be inconvenient for me. Some are filing legal cases, such as perjury, in an attempt to scare me.” Her letter ended with repeatedly asking Archbishop de la Cruz for prayers and support in her commitment “(to reveal) the truth and fight the evil that is corruption…amidst the resistance.” 

Asserting that “The path bestowed upon me by our Creator is hard and treacherous,” she sought the protection of the bishops and the custody of Mother Church.”


After receipt of her letter and affidavit, however,  Bishop de la Cruz had to leave for Rome. Last June 29, Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, he and Bishop Marlo Peralta of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia in Vigan were among 22 bishops from various parts of the world to be raised to Archbishop by Pope Francis. 

The installation of an archbishop is a beautiful and solemn ceremony where the candidate personally receives from the Pope the “palium,” a wide collar extending up to the waist and fashioned out of sheep-skin. Prior to installation each individual palium is made to rest overnight on the tomb of St. Peter in the imposing Basilica, and it symbolizes the transfer of authority from Peter to the new archbishop.  


Early last week, Archbishop De la Cruz, fresh from Rome (and as his brother bishops teased him, his halo still shining) told his colleagues about Napoles’ petition for prayers and guidance in tackling the need for truth--- and her plea for Church custody. The bishops had just wound up their two day semi-annual conference and when the matter of custody was raised there, CBCP President Socrates Villegas announced that this would not be possible. Archbishop De la Cruz, however, felt it was his pastoral duty to respond to Napoles’ letter and visit her in detention; several bishops wanted to come with him.   

Last Monday morning, Archbishop De la Cruz and Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles (who momentarily forsook his hospital bed in Batangas, where had been confined for severe coughs and colds for some days), and Bishop Gregorio  of Batanes journeyed to Fort Santo Domingo, and they were joined by two prominent Protestant prelates: Bishop Efraim Tendero, National Director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, and Pastor Art Corpuz of the United Church of Manila.


The bishops found a very jittery prisoner Janet under double lock in her cell and in fact, all five visitors  were locked up with her during the visit. The place was barbed all around, with only a curtain as rear wall---all of which, she admitted, made her quite frightened. Adding to the pathos was that the visitors saw her husband Jimmy Napoles standing across the road, but he was not allowed to enter as it was not visitation time for him. Frittering like a housewife and serving them coffee and cookies, eventually Janet began to relax and chatted with them in the next two hours.  

She narrated that “some people” told her that she should remove some names from her list but she didn't agree. Once reports spread that she would like to divulgel the entire truth, however, various harrassments allegedly came, e.g., some guards were withdrawn, leaving her more vulnerable.  

Janet told the clerics that the whole government is corrupt, to which Archbishop Arguelles replied that the more meaningful solution is to effect change of the whole system. At the press con later Arguelles spoke about the National Transformation Council that's being proposed as a substitute for the current leadership, and why systems change should not be made to wait until 2016. It's as in now, and this blogger agrees.   

Napoles was asked why she chose to say nothing in reply to queries about politicians guilty of investing in her fake NGOs during the Senate hearing some months back. She said this was because she got a call while on the witness stand, asking her to shut up, and at that point she had to comply with this mystery caller (who is this person?) as she was very worried for her children. 

She also felt the pressure from DOJ handlers to channel accusations of scams only to the opposition. 


Napoles told the bishops that a far bigger corruption was practiced by other operators not linked to her, (what Bobi Tiglao had referred to as the "non-Napoles operators?). Arguelles opined that P-Noy had seemed to have become super-dependent on DBM Chief Butch Abad that he cannot live without his Budget Chief.  

At the press conference the bishops held at Club Filipino upon their return from Fort Sto. Domingo, Arguelles explained that the Church is a sanctuary and anyone who comes under its fold ought to be protected, and that the State has the moral obligation as well to protect Napoles.  Archbishop de la Cruz felt that she has more things to reveal and would be willing to tell the truth---if she could be assured of more protection.

Bishop Tendero said he noticed that the charge sheet vs. Napoles included people of humble means, such as the nurse of her mother and the driver. He batted for full disclosure by the prisoner as well as accountability from all public officials.

.Pastor Art Corpuz, on the other hand, noted that in fairness to Janet, she did not ask for any concession. 

The over two-hour visit by the prelates brought out light moments. Talking of the prevailing corruption in society, Napoles at one point said that based on all the loot Abad got from various sources, including GAA, "puede nang mag-tapos ng tulay hanggang Taiwan. Ganoon kalaki ang nakuha ni Abad!” At the press con, Arguelles recounted that that narrative from Napoles was “a joke na totoo.”  

Soon it was time for the visitors to leave, and thanking them for precious time spent with her, the prisoner began to cry anew at the pained parting.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

President's 6pm. TV-radio broadcast tomorrow will seek to get him and Abad off the hook by citing DAP funds that went to helping our people, but this claim should be audited by independent auditors, not COA. If 9% of P170 billion DAP---or P15.3 billion---can't be accounted for, where did they go? Palace will make big thing of Cory's AO that Joker says they didn't make use of, as "there seemed something illegal about it." Yet P-Noy and Abad sought to justify DAP with this AO. Watch Toff de Venecia's premiere Asian production of musicale, "Dani Girl" at CPR Auditorium, RCBC Bldg.

Tomorrow evening, Monday, at 6 pm., the President of the Republic will appear before nationwide TV and radio to discuss various aspects of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in an attempt to get himself and his Budget Chief off the hook---after the Supreme Court had ruled DAP as unconstitutional. At least three groups have filed impeachment cases against P-NOy and many citizens and organizations have not let up on their call for DBM Secretary Butch Abad to resign, despite P-Noy's outright rejection of his resignation offer.  

Predictably, at tomorrow's broadcast P-Noy will enumerate the various projects which zapped up DAP funds, on the argument that, as he put it last Friday's Cabinet meeting, "...I cannot accept the notion that doing right by our people is wrong." He will insist that he did right in funding projects with DAP as they benefited the economy and lives of our people favorably. 

But many things are wrong about this assertion. 


One is that there has been no outright and full disclosure just where the P170 billion DAP went, how much actually benefited the country and people and how much actually went to pockets of politicians---apart from the P24 billion the Palace used to bribe legislators in the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona. 

The Palace has argued that 91% of DAP's P170 billion from 2011-2012 really went to improving the economy, and that only 9% is UNACCOUNTED FOR. The 9%. however, means P15.3 billion missing---"not a paltry sum at all," which should be independently audited, not by COA but perhaps by PICPA, along with the rest of the P170 billion DAP. P-Noy would probably try to show where the 91 percent went---which is good, as Abad has stubbornly refused to show the list. Mukhang maraming tinatago.  

Moreover, if the 91% went to shoring up the economy, it should show. BUT THE STATISTICS ARE NOT ENCOURAGING. The World Bank, for instance,  stated that DAP only contributed 1.3 percentage points to the GDP. In 2012 the administration registered only a small improvement on the lack of good jobs---so that the poverty rate of 25.2 % in 2012 was only a very slight improvement over the 26.3% in 2009. PH still ranks behind most major Southeast Asian countries in terms of infrastructure. 

The reality is more like so much DAP funds were thrown into meaningless projects, such as funding congressmen and senators for their role in impeaching and convicting the CJ; funds for ARMM as well as for COA (which got P45B that went mostly into upgraded vehicles for officials), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Cordillera, etc. Heartbreaking good money thrown after bad.


As many thousands have demanded the resignation of Abad and the impeachment of P-Noy, Palace officials, desperately seeking a way out for them, are now making a big issue of the Administrative Order prepared by President Cory and her executive secretary then, Joker Arroyo, in 1987. Joker recently explained that the Palace did not use the AO at that time because of its QUESTIONABLE LEGALITY. 

Despite the SC ruling of DAP as unconstitutional, Abad and P-Noy not only used the funds but now have the temerity to assert that the Cory-era AO makes DAP LEGAL. 

A stung ex-Sen. Joker Arroyo thus labelled P-Noy as an "EVIL GENIUS." As experts point out, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and anything that does not conform to it is not valid. Now, if both chambers of Congress would pass a law that's contrary to the Constitution, then that law is invalid AB INITIO.

How much more a MERE AO!  If an AO can amend the Constitution, then there is no point in having a constitution at all!  An AO normally has many provisions, and thus, provisions which do not violate the Constitution are okay.  But those which violate or amend the Constitution ARE NOT and CANNOT BE VALID.


Any lawyer worth his salt knows this. Fr Bernas knows this. Abad and P-Noy are scraping the bottom.


It's indication that P-Noy has become a lame duck that names of certain politicians are being tossed around for the presidential race in 2016. One of them, although she has been around for just a year in the Senate,  is Sen. Grace Poe. Sen. Chiz Escudero was quoted a few days ago as wanting to run for President with possibly Grace Poe as his running-mate, or vice versa. 

The query of many right-thinking people at this time is, why would anyone AT THIS STAGE even consider Grace Poe for either of the two highest offices in the land? What has she done to merit this consideration---other than that she is the daughter of FPJ and she has name recall. Her pet bill, the FOI bill, has been through third reading in the Senate---which is a plus for her, considering that its counterpart bill in the House hasn't even moved beyond committee level. But other than this one bill, Grace Poe is still--- in the best practices of this mango-producing country---pahinugin pa. In fact, hilaw na hilaw pa. 


The parade of names which are, according to past political practice, still woefully lacking in substance and experience, only indicates that we're back to square one---when the masa would vote because someone's mother died, or someone's father, a screen idol, was said to have been cheated of victory (this latter assumption has no basis at all). 

Enough of this crap---we've seen how disastrous it has been in the case of the candidate propelled by the mother's death which the country mourned. Let's base choice on MERITOCRACY, and the lack of it is the best motivation to shift to a parliamentary/unicameral system. 

To be sure, a parliamentary shift will not be a walk in the park, but at least, there is an even chance that choice of national leaders would be more circumspect as it would be from among peers. Moreover, as shown in the way we're still wrestling with DAP and PDAF after the SC has ruled them unconstitutional, had all the scandals that hit the P-Noy administration occurred in a parliamentary system, the government leader would have been booted out with a no-confidence vote.

 Here only two corrupt leaders were thrown out and it was not even an act of Congress for the second leader, but Divine Intervention (in the form of a white envelop that actually contained nothing) that did him in. . 


Toff de Venecia

Joaquin Maria "Chino" Gutierrez

Hi FB and blog friends, If you recall, recently I wrote about a fine Filipino classical violinist named Joaquin Maria “Chino” Gutierrez, who’s making waves not just here but abroad. With the help of friends Chino was able to go back to his music studies in Munich, Germany which were interrupted twice owing to his family's lack of funds. But in addition, he was recently accepted to the very prestigious Keshet Eilon Intenational Summer Mastercourse in Israel---where the best and brightest violin, cello and viola students, rigorously selected from all over the world, will undergo a three-week training and tutoring from some of the most renowned masters in their field. The students will also be able to display their talents in solo recitals and in concert with these greatest names in the violin and other string instruments. 

Chino is the first Filipino to be accepted to this renowned Summer Mastercourse in Israel, established 25 years ago and said to be the launching pad for many great careers in the violin world.

Well, there’s another young man about Chino’s age who’s into theater production and direction, and evidently it’s our young people in the culture and arts field who'll do us proud as Filipinos. I’m talking about 23-year old Broadway World-nominated theater director/executive producer and Philippine Star columnist and writer Christopher “Toff” De Venecia, son of former Speaker Joe de Venecia and 4th District Representative of Pangasinan Gina de Venecia. Toff de Venecia has broken away from the political tradition of his family and ventured into the richly rewarding (in the true sense) field of culture and the arts.   


Toff De Venecia founded the “Sandbox Collective,” a Manila-based performing arts company that’s dedicated to honing local talents in theater and developing Filipino audiences. For its maiden production---and Asian premiere and debut--- "Sandbox" has brought to Manila a critically acclaimed, inspiring Off-Broadway musicale that has shown in fringe festivals and regional theaters in Australia, Canada and the US, titled "Dani Girl."  

“Dani Girl," the first professional directorial stint of Toff de V., will stage a total of 15 shows which opened last July 10 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, and will run until July 27, at 8:30 pm., same venue.

The musicale is about a nine-year old girl's heroic and inspiring battle with leukemia. Told from a child's perspective, the story revolves around the precocious Dani, "who embarks on a magical quest with her teddy-bear Mr. Fritz, her guardian angel Raph, and her film-obsessed hospital roommate Marty to win back her beloved hair and find the answer to the question, 'Why is cancer?' "

Dani's proceeds will go to the cancer unit of the PGH, thus combining two elements: a splendid musicale production and screenplay and a most worthy cause. For particulars, pls call 810-6093, 840-1607 and 887-4972. See you there.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

As a break from sordid political situation with PDAF and DAP, let’s pay tribute to violinist/conductor par excellence Oscar Yatco who passed away in Hanover last July 1. Among Yatco’s enduring achievements was honing young talents, among them 24-year old classical violinist Chino Gutierrez, who'll participate in the International Summer Mastercourse in Israel---the first Filipino to crash into this prestigious string “Olympics.”

Prof. Yatco and young Chino Gutierrez in early 2000s

Young Chino with Prof. Oscar Yatco and wife Gitti in Hanover

Let’s take a breather from the burning political issues of the day and pay homage to prominent workers in the cultural scene for a change. I think you will all agree that this particular blog would be very uplifting for your spirits.
Art and music critic Rosalinda Orosa in a recent Star article paid tribute to Maestro Oscar Yatco, the first Filipino conductor of the Manila Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Laureate of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, who died last July 1, 6:30 pm. Manila time, in Hanover, Germany, at age 84.
Prof. Yatco, who had been a longtime resident of Hanover, having married a German lady known to friends and relatives by her nickname, Gitti, was quoted by his niece Desiree Santos in an email to this blogger as having suffered a heart attack and subsequent comatose from which he never recovered.  
In her tribute to Mr. Yatco, Star critic Baby Orosa noted that he will be remembered in the Philippine music world for his “prodigious and protean career as violin prodigy and recipient of the UP Teacher’s Diploma at age 16, a brilliant scholar at Juilliard and the Munich State Academy of Music and Theater.”  Orosa stressed that “to German audiences Yatco represented the epitome of Filipino talent as winner of the only violin prize in a Hanover International tilt, as virtuoso soloist of major German philharmonic orchestras, as dynamic concert master of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and outstanding member of the Strauss String Quartet.”
Ms. Orosa pointed out that Yatco, as the first Filipino music director of the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO), “introduced contemporary masterpieces while honing the musicians’ skills in symphonic music and making the ensemble Asia’s best while he was its baton-wielder.” Thus, as first Filipino music director of the MSO, said Orosa, “Yatco’s tremendous power, vitality and artistic sensibility deepened Filipino appreciation for classical symphonies”
There is another role that Prof. Yatco played that this blogger would like to highlight: “his having led hundreds of international music students to achieve their fullest development,” as Rosalinda Orosa noted.  
One of the music talents Yatco “discovered” and helped to hone is 24-year old Filipino classical violinist Joaquin “Chino” Gutierrez, who had trained very early on (at age 7) with Prof. Alfonso "Coke" Bolipata. After suffering a number of setbacks owing largely to his family’s lack of funds to sustain his expensive music studies and training in Germany, Chino was able to resume his Bachelor of Music studies at the Munich State Academy for Music and Theater last April. Friends from various walks of life helped in his endeavor to get back to Munich. 
But this is not all---and had Prof. Yatco known of this latest achievement of Chino, he would have been enormously proud and happy.
It's a tribute to Chino's prodigious talent that earlier this year, despite having been away from formal schooling for some years, and prior to his return to Munich, he applied for---and was accepted on a partial scholarship--- to the prestigious Keshet Eilon International Summer Violin Mastercourse in Kibbutz Eilon, Western Galilee, Israel. His Munich professor heartily endorsed his application to this Mastercourse. Chino is the first Filipino to crash into this 25-year old renowned training program in Israel that has turned away many promising candidates owing to the stiffness of its requirements. .  
In this three-week annual Summer Mastercourse which will run from July 20 to Aug. 7, 2014, the best and brightest string students from all over the world will be trained by some of the most renowned pedagogues and masters in the field.  Aside from daily one-on-one tutoring by the masters (Chino will have as his tutor the renowned Russian violin icon Edward Grach) the students will be able to display their talents in solo recitals as well as participation in orchestras with the international masters. 
Thus, this Israel Mastercourse may be viewed as the “Olympics” of the violin world and in fact, over the years, many a violin career has been launched internationally from the Keshet Eilon's rigorous training program. Needless to say, it will be an incomparable experience for Chino Gutierrez, who appears quite determined and single-minded to score for the Philippines in the international violin world---in the best tradition of Filipino maestros Ernesto Vallejo (who's his great grand-uncle on the side of his mother, Ma. Antonia Sebastian-Gutierrez), Oscar Yatco and Gilopez Kabayao.  
Prof. Yatco adjusting bow-tie of his hand-picked soloist, Chino Gutierez,
 before  the MPO Concert for Yatco's 75th birthday in Manila. 

When Chino Gutierrez  was 9 years old, Prof. Yatco conducted a masterclass in Miriam College and later the maestro was said to have told him, "What are you doing here? You should be studying in Germany."  
Over the ensuing years Yatco had been very impressed with Chino’s prodigious talent, and as his niece Desiree Santos put it, her uncle must have somewhat seen himself in young Chino.  Fr. James B. Reuter narrated in his Star column, “At  3:00 A.M.,” in August 2002, about a student recital in Miriam College featuring Chino Gutierrez, then a student of Coke Bolipata. Fr. Reuter sat with Prof. Yatco in the audience.
After hearing Chino, then 11 years old, seamlessly tackle Bach, Beethoven, Saint-Saens and Wieniawski and ending with beautiful Filipino pieces by Antonio Molina and Ernesto Vallejo, Yatco, as quoted by Fr. Reuter, was moved to exclaim: “My God, this is the repertoire of a graduation recital in college, for a Bachelor of Music degree. And the boy is 11 years old!”.

Prof. Yatco was later moved to say that Chino is "the Cecile Licad of the violin."
At Yatco’s recommendation, in 2000 Chino and his parents traveled to Hanover to meet with renowned violin pedagogue Jens Ellermann of the Musik Hochschule in that city---for him to assess  if  Chino had a real talent with the violin and if he should devote his life to it. Ellerman’s unhesitating verdict: Chino is “a major talent” in violin, and he encouraged the boy to pursue a career with it.

While in Hanover the Gutierrezes visited with Prof. and Mrs. Yatco, who proved to be such gracious hosts at dinners and visits to their home, touring them around the city. Yatco also helped raise funds for the boy’s studies.

In 2003 Prof.Yatco, together with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Blas Ople, Sen. Leticia Shahani, German Ambassador Herbert Jess, and Philippine Ambassador to Bonn Toto Zaide played a key role in the move of Chino and his parents to Munich, for him to further study music there when he was 13 years old. 

Ka Blas Ople, a distinguished man of letters himself and so impressed with the young boy, arranged a local hire status at the Philippine Embassy for his father, Lambert Gutierrez, so that the family would have a source of income while accompanying their minor-age son in Munich.

Prof. Yatco endorsed Chino to the NCCA which gave him a status as government scholar for a while. 

In Munich Chino excelled not only in music under Prof. Jens Ellerman who had by then moved from Hanover to the Munich State Academy, but also in math and languages. Chino represented the state of Bavaria in a national contest in Math, which is supposed to be the “lingua franca” of the Germans. He also got involved in school projects such as a translation of Hebrew into Latin. 

In November 2005 Prof. Yatco handpicked Chino to be the soloist of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra at the Maestro’s 75th birthday concert at the Philamlife Auditorium, which he himself conducted. Chino played German composer Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor. 


Unfortunately, in 2006 the plan crafted personally by Ka Blas Ople for the young boy to be able to afford his studies in Munich by means of an embassy local-hire status for his father was abrogated by new ambassador Delia Domingo-Albert. 

What was sad for the Gutierrezes was that they were forced to come home on the eve of a big music competition, the Spohr International Violin Competition in Freiburg, Germany, that Prof. Ellerman had been assiduously priming his Pinoy whiz-kid student for---so confident was the professor on how his young student would fare. At 16 then, Chino would have been one of the youngest competitors in that significant Freiburg event.

But they had to leave Munich for Manila. Prof. Ellerman, who had trained some of the world's most renowned violinists in his distinguished teaching career, saw how it had affected his pupil and he asked Chino not to compete anymore in the Spohr event.  

But all the disappointments of the past are now behind and the future looks very promising for an international career for the young violinist, with his return to the Munich Academy and his acceptance to the Keshet Eilon Mastercourse this month. What's good about Chino is that he matches the big breaks in his life with incredible self-discipline and a fierce drive to excel for his country and people, as well as deep piety and faith in the Lord.